The Sony Reader: NOT the Ebook version of the IPOD
I just wanted to let you know that I received your email on July 25, 2006, announcing the fall release of your new Sony Reader. The idea of a portable reading device that mimics printed pages is highly appealing. I read that answers one of your staff members gave to various websites about the features of the upcoming Sony Reader at Mobile Read. Of interesting note, is the following:
- It will read these formats “natively” (meaning no conversion): TXT, RTF, PDF (Unencrypted), BBeB (Encrypted and Unencrypted)
- It will not resize the PDF so you are stuck reading it in a small, compressed state.
- The DRM rules allow any purchased eBook to be read on up to six devices (at least one of those 6 must be a PC).
- If the Sony Reader or your PC breaks, you can always log-in to your CONNECT account and “re-download” your purchased eBooks to a new PC
- Does not work for MACs
- No distribution outside the US
It appears that it does not support htmls in any version. Booooo. I wonder if that means it won’t support htmls when converting from BBeB. This is so frustrating as an ebook consumer. It means that if I want to read the many books that I have purchased in ebook format as an html then I will not be able to do so a) at all or b) without conversion. GRRRR.
What about all those MS Lit or Ereader books? I guess if I have MS Lit, I can use a tool to convert to htmls and then convert that to a Word doc and then be able to convert it to BBeB. Yeah, that sounds real simple. Genuis, guys, genius.
As for the Ereader books, I am just SOL there. I asked Mark F from Boing Boing, who has purchased hundreds of ereader books how he feels about this:
Would you buy the Sony Reader given that you would be unable to read your Ereader books on the device?
It depends on the price and the functionality. Eink displays have no backlight, which I don’t like because I read in bed late at night and I don’t want to keep a light on, which would disturb my wife.
If it is $200 or less, I’ll buy it, but it has to support eReader docs, and plain text, HTML, and PDF. I doubt Sony will do that.
Do you think that successful sales of Sony Reader will encourage other companies to produce eink devices which would allow you to avail yourself of the E Ink technology?
I hope so. But I have a feeling Sony is not going to make a good device. It will be locked down, just as the PSP is. People want to have the freedom to tweak the software in their devices. That’s why the Treo is so popular.
Or do you think that E Ink technology is just a phase that will be pushed out in just a few years by some newer technology (although I can’t figure out what that would be right now except to incorporate a backlight or some type of light within the eink device).
Perhaps some kind of transflective super high resolution OLED will beat Eink in terms of readability.
Dave Rothman often refers to digital formats as the Tower of eBabel and it is such an apt description. There are dozens of formats and none are interoperable. If these e-reader execs think that we readers are just so hot for this technology that we will take the time to run our books through 4 different software programs they are greatly out of touch with realilty. Perhaps they have read too many paranormals? Sony, in real life, people do NOT shift into werewolves, vampires do NOT exist and there is not always a HEA at the end of every romance. That’s just in the books.
Ereader is the largest ebook etailer out there. New York Publishers have been offering their books in MS Lit, Adobe, and Mobipocket formats for years now. What is a reader to do with their previously purchased content? Throw it away? Repurchase? None of those particularly at the price point of $350.00. Right now, a dedicated ebook reader can purchase the Ebookwise Reader for around $100 but the Ebookwise reader allows conversions of htmls.
As much as I am seduced by the idea of a device that reads like ink on paper, the restrictions are going to prevent me from buying this device. I think.
Let me just end by telling you that you forgot to include “romance” in your genre listing. Maybe you don’t know this, being from Japan and all, but romance is really hot in the US. So hot that the genre accounts for almost half or over half of all mass markets sold. Romances are a $1 billion industry. As Malle Vallik, an HQN exec says,
the typical e-book reader is much more likely to be a passionate reader who loves the instant gratification of downloading the book she wants to read and the ability to carry many titles with her
Not only that, but in direct relation to your product, romance is the fastest growing downloaded genre in the ebook industry. I am sure you already know this so I am assuming that romances are included inside one of the other genres such as “resources and reference” or “self help and improvement”.
Look, Sony, I want you to succeed. I think the E Ink technology rocks the house. But we romance readers want to spend our time reading books and talking about reading books and talking about the books we read. We do not want to spend our time trying to convert previously purchased books into some weird format which we may not like. We don’t want our books to be tied to one device when technology changes in a nanosecond. I am not convinced that enough paper lovers will convert to ebook reading to make the Sony Reader a success.